The weather in Dallas-Fort Worth can be hard to predict, especially when it comes to freezing temperatures and snow. Even though we don’t deal with winter weather very often, colder evenings and winter storms mean frozen pipes are a real problem you and other Texans may face.
Our winters have been getting colder and colder these last few years, which means we’re likely to see more frozen pipes in Texas. Many Texans have no idea what to do about frozen pipes, which is why we put together this step-by-step guide. Thawing a frozen pipe is quick and easy, but you’ll want to do it the right way. Here are our recommendations:
1. Find the frozen sections of pipe.
The pipes most likely to freeze in your home are the exposed pipes under sinks, around your water meter, in crawl spaces, near exterior walls and outside. First, check these pipes for any obvious signs of freezing. They’ll be cold and frosted over, and (of course) their attached fixtures won’t work.
Even if you can’t see any obvious signs, the pipe could still be frozen. Find the frozen section of pipe by testing each faucet on your property. If you find one that doesn’t work, it means you’re close to the frozen section. Follow that faucet back to an exposed or uninsulated section of pipe and you’ll find the frozen section.
2. Turn on the faucet the pipe feeds into.
Determine which faucet the frozen pipe supplies water into and open it up. Turn both the hot and cold knobs. This serves two purposes:
- It relieves pressure inside the pipe, which can help prevent damage.
- When the pipe thaws, the water can flow out of the pipe.
When you see water dripping out of your faucet, you’ll know successfully thawed out your frozen pipe. Give it time for all ice to loosen and melt.
3. Warm the frozen pipe.
There a several ways to thaw a frozen pipe. The important thing is to begin with the section closest to the faucet so that the melted water has an escape route. Melting water or steam that is trapped in the middle of a frozen pipe could cause it to burst. And never use an open flame on your home plumbing. Try one of these methods:
- Warm towels. Soak towels in hot water and warp them around pipes. With a bucket underneath, you can pour hot water over the wrapped towels to expedite the process.
- Hair dryer. Aim your heat gun or hair dryer -on low heat- at the target area and keep the heat moving to avoid overheating one section or another. Be careful to avoid shock by not getting your hair dryer wet.
- Heat lamp. A heat lamp can direct steady, gentle heat to the frozen pipe. As with the hair dryer, be sure to avoid getting your lamp wet.
- Heating tape. Your local hardware store should carry heating tape or electric wraps designed to warm cold or frozen pipes.
You’ll know you’re thawing the ice inside the pipe when water starts running of the faucets. If the pipe’s hidden inside your walls or out of reach, we recommend calling plumbing professionals.
4. Prevent frozen pipes in the future.
Once you’ve thawed your pipe, you’ll want to keep it from freezing again. To do that:
- Turn your home’s heating on as soon as temperatures drop.
- Keep interior doors open to help warm air flow through your home.
- Run your water fixtures regularly, especially in parts of the home where the pipes are exposed to cold.
- Open hot water faucets ever-so-slightly if it’s going to be especially cold – the warm running water will keep pipes warm.
- Insulate at-risk sections of pipe relatively easily and cheaply.
If you suspect you have a frozen pipe and aren’t confident in tackling the thawing process yourself, don’t worry. The pros at Ben Franklin Plumbing are always ready to help you keep your home and your pipes safe.
Frozen Pipe FAQ
Eventually, yes. In Texas it’s likely that pipes will thaw sooner than later but extended winter storms can make frozen pipes a definite danger. If your pipes got frosty overnight but the forecast is warm, you’re probably fine. If you see long term cold ahead, don’t risk your pipes bursting, address the problem immediately.
If the pipes in question are inside a wall, you have a few options:
· Turn up the thermostat so that your entire home warms.
· Aim a heat lamp at the wall section in question.
· Cut an access panel in the wall and use the above methods to thaw the pipe.
· Call a professional.
Yes. Until the pipe has fully thawed, leave your faucet open for the water to escape. Leaving faucets open at a trickle during cold weather can prevent them from freezing up.
As water freezes, its molecular structure changes to a hexagonal shape. This shape takes up more space than the molecules in liquid form. This change alone is not the reason pipes burst. What happens is that this ice pushes up against the liquid water and blocks it from flowing. The water behind the ice can always push back to its source but water in front of the ice has nowhere to go – especially if your faucet isn’t open. Eventually the pressure will burst your pipe in an area that wasn’t actually frozen.
Turn of your water supply immediately at the main shut off valve. Prevent damage to your home by stopping all water from coming into your home. Your main shutoff valve should be near your water meter where the city water line connects to your home. Some experts recommend shutting the main valve before thawing pipes to prevent potential disaster if a pipe bursts.
If your toilet won’t flush or your drains are backed up because of a frozen sewer line underground, your best bet is to call a professional. We can use a boring tool with a warm water jet to open frozen pipes that are otherwise difficult to reach.
Have a professional plumber perform the work. Not only can they replace the damaged pipe, but they can also make sure no other parts of your plumbing system were compromised by the break. And they will do it all to local code.
Your Dallas Texas Frozen Pipe Experts
If you’re dealing with a frozen pipe in your home or business, call the punctual pros at Benjamin Franklin plumbing. We service all plumbing issues, including frozen pipes in Plano, McKinney and the greater metro area. Schedule your appointment now.